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The Options Before Nigeria

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The Options Before Nigeria

By Michael Owhoko

In the midst of sustained challenge for restructuring and other sundry agitations in Nigeria, there is iota of hope, if only the ruling class is prepared to do the needful, writes Michael Owhoko

Nigeria has been through quite a lot in recent times than at any other time in its political history, but at this very moment, aside the almost resolved security challenges facing Nigeria, issues relating to self-determination and restructuring are some of the burning issues that the government of the day is grappling to manage.

As it is, close observer will easily say the incumbent leadership of the federal government is not favourably disposed to restructuring, whereas, sentiments have easily been aroused by proponents and opponents of the restructuring debate.  Unfortunately, while the civil society and geopolitical interests have been calling for some changes in the Nigerian constitution as a way to perfect and strengthen the union that constitutes Nigeria, the citizenry are not adequately motivated to fully join the clamour either because of lack of clear understanding of the issues at stake or are overwhelmed by economic concerns.

First, either for or against restructuring as currently being canvassed, it is obvious that the people of the South and the North are not on the same page.  Nigerian must understand that as a multi-ethnic society with diverse cultural dissimilarities, the country qualifies as a sociologically complex society, posing a serious challenge to the country’s continued existence as one united nation.  This makes it imperative as a matter of necessity to do the needful and embark on a constitutional amendment that will give birth to a restructured new Nigeria.

Secondly, in discussing issues relating to the Nigerian structure, which evidently, is defective, and the sustained clamour for a truly federal constitution, primordial sentiments must be avoided because as things stand, objectivity is being overwhelmed by emotions depending on who is looking at what issues and the side of the divide on which he or she is rooted. The overall consequence of this will be unhelpful to decision-making process, as emphasis may be on sectional rather than national interest, even at the highest level of governance.

In reality, the Northern Protectorate, which comprises mainly the Hausa-Fulani people and the Southern Protectorate, made up of the Yoruba, Igbo and the Niger Deltans,  are initially district nations with separate cultural peculiarities before they were merged by the British colonial masters strictly for business and administrative purposes in the 1914 amalgamation.

Though the motive was not clear, but it is certainly not unconnected with achieving cost efficiency without passing the incidence of the cost of administration to the home country. This was so because the Northern Region was already experiencing budget deficit at the time when the Southern Protectorate had a robust budget with surplus.

From the onset, not many Nigerians were happy about the forced marriage. In fact, in one of his reactions to the Nigerian nationhood, the leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), the Sardauna of Sokoto, late Sir Ahmadu Bella once said: “The mistake of 1914 has come to light and I shall like to go no further again.” Likewise, the leader of the Action Group (AG), late Chief Obafemi Awolowo also said: “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no Nigerians in the same sense as there are English, Welsh, or French. The word Nigeria is a mere distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.

Chief Awolowo, in his book, The Peoples’ Republic, further confirmed the brittleness of the Nigerian state when he said, “It is incontestable that the British not only made Nigeria, but also hand it to us whole on their surrender of power. But the Nigeria, which they handed over to us, had in it the forces of its own disintegration. It is up to contemporary Nigerian leaders to neutralize these forces, preserve the Nigerian inheritance, and make all our people free, forward-looking and prosperous. “

The two men were apparently referring to the unhealthy amalgamation of 1914, and from then till now the Nigerian people themselves have not shown signs of willingness to unite, a confirmation that Nigeria is only a British intention and except other viable options are explored, the fragile peace in the country can still snowball into total disintegration because the country is surely on the precipice.

The most reliable option available to Nigeria is a federal system of government as practised in the country in the first republic from 1960 till 1966. I say this because the fear of Nigeria’s founding fathers has always been that the colonial masters failed to take into consideration the ethnic and cultural differences which ultimately shape peoples’ perception and decisions, hence as it is today, the allegiance of Nigeria’s founding fathers was to their respective regions, and by extension, current leadership, though surreptitiously.

Nigeria purportedly operates a federal system of government today, but the main defect is the absence of the features of that form of government, namely, autonomy of the federating units.  This is conspicuously missing as evident from the dependency structure between the states and the centre.  In a truly federal system, certain characteristics pertaining to the federating units are present, and some these include state-owned constitution, regional police, coat of arm, and so on.

This level of autonomy allows the units to adopt peculiar and independent style of administration to address their specific needs incidental to their culture, values and heritage. Then there is also something very vital that true federalism guarantees and that is fiscal federalism. This defines and provides the framework of financial relationship between the centre (federal government) and the rest of the states.

Chief among what proponents of restructuring are actually calling for and which are well enumerated in my book: Nigeria on the Precipice: Issues, Options and Solutions –  Lessons for Emerging Heterogeneous Democratic Societies , is a constitution that promotes fiscal federalism under which each region is at liberty to generate its own resources and discharge its statutory responsibilities within the limit of its resources, while also maintaining its status as an autonomous state within the federation.

Truth is, researchers, analysts and well-meaning Nigerians have collectively agreed that the bane of Nigeria’s problem is the transition from federal system to the unitary system as perpetrated by the military during their illegal incursions into politics in 1966.

It was during that period that the principle of derivation, an element of fiscal federalism, which was designed to ensure equity by way of compensation to the area from where mineral resources are extracted, was abandoned, whereas, when cocoa, groundnut and oil palm were sources of revenue in the country, the principle of derivation was applied.  This was why the western, northern and eastern regions benefited from 50 percent derivation as provided for by the 1963 constitution.

Now, the challenge is, the Nigerian economy is largely dependent on oil, hence it occupies a place of prominence in the country’s revenue matrix but unfortunately, the exploration of oil in the Niger Delta region has not only had very negative effects on the environment, but the abrogation of the derivation principle has stripped it of its due share of national revenue, making the people of the region to have less to show for the quantum of wealth being taken out of their land.  The derivation principle is currently pegged at a minimum of 13 percent.

Currently, Nigeria is draped with unresolved national issues that are capable of relapsing into an albatross around its neck because these issues are also the forces pulling apart the people of the country. Every ethnic group and every section has one grievance or the other against the Nigerian state. As indicated in my book and in consonance with other opinionated Nigerians, the resentments are as a result of the flawed process that led to the emergence of Nigeria as a country.

The somewhat reluctance of government to address these challenges is exacerbating concomitant frustration in the country and this is slowly but gradually killing the spirit of patriotism with regrettable decline in commitment towards national unity without which there cannot be any meaningful progress. For instance, the Biafra agitation is nothing but one of the symptoms of discontent, so too the militancy in the Niger Delta Region is an indication of frustration in the Niger Delta.

The long and short of this article is that the Nigerian nation is not working, particularly due to the application of wrong solutions induced by insincerity and hypocrisy and as a result, the future of the country is bleak, and, this explains why the clamour for restructuring is gaining unprecedented dimension more than at any time in history.

There is no rocket science to it. The way for Nigeria to go is true federalism, which guarantees fiscal federalism, and implicitly, financial autonomy. This will ensure equity in the administration of revenue because the pattern of revenue sharing formula has remained a bone of contention between federal and state governments. In such circumstance, the principle of derivation serves as a mechanism against revenue injustice, but where true federalism fails to be accepted, confederalism becomes the other available option.

Also, the steady escalation of tension in the country can be doused if the ruling class can throw pride to the wind and chart the path of peace and honour in their approach to resolving the current challenges facing the country by conducting a referendum. Through a referendum, the people can actively participate in deciding which system of government to adopt. Referendum is a political instrument for resolving political questions. It is an aggregation of the wish of the people.

Nigeria has the potential to grow capacity for global relevance, but suppression of the wishes of the people is capable of frustrating this hope.  So, let us concede ethic and sectional pride and allow the country to be repositioned through restructuring to enthrone justice and equity aimed at achieving peace, happiness and progress.

Michael Owhoko, author, Nigeria on The Precipice: Issues, Options and Solutions – Lessons for Emerging Heterogeneous Democratic Societies, wrote from Lagos. 

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Schneider Electric: Driving the Digital Transformation of Nigeria with Augmented Reality

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Schneider Electric

The future impact of Augmented Reality (AR) will significantly transform businesses and consumer marketplaces in Nigeria, should its adoption be accelerated across various industries and platforms, says Schneider Electric.

As more breakthroughs in technology continue to take root, the group has remained consistent in sensitizing its partners on the potential of AR, being one of the keys to digital transformation in the industry. Companies must therefore capitalize on AR and pursue the opportunities that can significantly boost operational productivity and enhance efficiency.

Speaking on this innovative technology, Belema Koleoso, Territory Technology Lead, Schneider Electric, says although much progress has been made since 2019 when Schneider Electric’s AR technology EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor (EAO) was launched as a global hero offer, which works to enhance data accessibility for quicker and more accurate decision making, there remains a lethargy in the Nigerian market to adopt this technology.

Company campaigns have been run to sensitize clients to understand how EAO uses AR technology to optimize the operation and maintenance of industrial sites and equipment, AR aids effectiveness, helps to optimize human assets, and bridges the prevalent generational skill gaps. In this regard, she specifically highlighted the workforce crises that Schneider Electric foresees in the next 5-6 years, with the aged industrial population as the search for well-trained workers sometimes poses a challenge.

Belema says with AR, companies do not need to lose the experience plants cultivate with the exit of personnel, instead, years of training and experience can be “retained” through iteration of workforce turnover. For example, templates, assets, and manuals can be aggregated into the EOA application, customizable by the client; it puts real-time information at your fingertips, whenever and wherever it is needed, enabling operators to superimpose current data and virtual objects onto a cabinet, machine, or plant. This software combines contextual and local dynamic information for mobile users, enabling them to experience a fusion of the physical, real-life environment with virtual objects. It becomes a mobile work buddy for employees commencing the learning curve and in all reduces operational cost while increasing plant operational efficiency. This ensures that people who are put into the system meet the experience that others who passed through the system left behind.

AR presents completely new ways of executing tasks, with instant diagnosis, contactless maintenance, increased efficiency, and lower cost. Industries, including construction, aviation, consumer packaged goods, energy and chemical, mining and minerals etc., can use EOA to enhance their operations. The cloud-based software rides on any controller to learn activities and aggregates assets, moving past proprietary original equipment manufacturer parent protocols to focus on the tasks.

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Schneider Electric believes increased industry leaders across sectors can therefore use EOA to their advantage, where data drives processes and decisions metamorphosizing to “smart decision makers,” riding on data to make optimal decisions smarter and faster.

In retrospect, Belema says the pre-covid in Nigeria technologies like AR were seen as typically “nice to have.” She says she highly anticipates a time when more people will understand the immense benefit of this innovation and evaluate this technology as a necessity. “Often, the feedback on this is a nice-to-have, after a review of what AR offers. But I will push for people to look at it like this – When you have something that will optimize your processes, it moves from being a nice-to-have to a must-have.”

To drive this renewed mindset, the AR expert opines policies, such as the environmental sustainability policy, can bolster digital transformation. Stakeholders would need to advocate an optimized use of energy sustainably. Enforcement of which would naturally drive the adoption of technology across industries quicker.

“When people see that sustainability policies are enforced, for example, you are penalized for not meeting a target, or incentivized for meeting a target; you would see that the case would be different. Naturally, people will begin to adopt technology to meet their goals.”

She also advocates for Nigerians to consider AR as a total cost of investment that enhances optimal output, as customers are more prone to adopt a baseline approach, where they are satisfied with running their operations minimally without incurring additional costs.

With technology improving and becoming more widely available, it is undeniable that AR will become essential for businesses to thrive in the upcoming years. Schneider is optimistic that its position as a thought leader and industry partner in the digital transformation of energy management and automation is about to gain new ground, enabling the emergence of a new landscape of energy, paradigm shifts for the industry, and a revolutionized experience.

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Climate Change: Between Harriman and Kayanja Ideologies

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climate change

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

The debate on climate change is among the most presently discussed topics on the earth’s surface. All these years, I have, going by the commentaries from the Western world, believed that Africa’s non-commitment to the call for global action on climate change was responsible for the real and imaginary challenges confronting the continent.

Making this perceived climate change challenge look real was the recent news report that to tackle the problems, the World Bank Group has committed about $70 billion and urged governments of different nations to set up structures to engage and access the fund.

However, such a belief system recently underwent a positive transformation while listening to Professor Tosan Harriman of Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.

Tosan, who spoke at the GbaramatuVoice Niger Delta Economic Discourse series held in Warri, Delta State, among other things, said; “the truth is this, we saw the hypocrisy of these people (Western worlds) recently when, because of the Ukraine-Russian war, they are not talking anymore about clean energy, rather, we see them go back again focusing on coal, getting out coal to drive the heat.”

“Africa cannot give away its resources because Africa doesn’t need the English of climate change. Our continent is blessed, our continent has resources, and our continent is galvanizing on those resources to ensure there’s a global world order. Taking Africa’s resources from Africa is like committing Africa to another new colonial tendency that will finally incapacitate and make it useful in the global situation of things, and that’s exactly what my argument has been.

“So, quickly, therefore, let’s have our mindset reconstructed about the fact that we are not a danger to Europe and America; we are not a danger to politics of climate change. The only grammar behind climate change is the economy.

“If they take from you the resources that offered you a comparative advantage, it opens them up to their economic value in the context of a global chain, in the context of a global productivity chain, it opens them up to their economic value where they now begin to sell clean energy to people like us in Africa who don’t need it. It’s so important we have these facts properly straightened out before we get into this other issue.

“The world has been talking about clean energy, what we call resistance against greenhouse gas emission. The kind of carbon deducted from the exploration of our crude oil, those are the carbons that we have, and that’s what the world has been talking about. They needed clean energy that would help the Arctic Circle maintain its height and then help the entire ecosystem to be properly balanced along the lines of certain determination that they thought had been there from the beginning and all of that.

“In Europe and America, if you actually desire clean energy, you should not in the 21st century be talking about coal because coal is all about greenhouse gas emission. If you go to the home of the Queen, you will see them using coal, and I keep making this argument that if Norway as a nation has the level of oil we have, nobody will be talking about greenhouse gas, nobody will be talking about climate change, and I have always held the position that every nation should be allowed to grow within the context of his own resources.”

He said that the best the world can do, which is an issue he raised at the Cairo 27th conference recently held, is that we should look at the conditions of African nations, what we call the dependent nations and all of that, dependent on the global world situation and all of that.

“We should look at their conditions, and then we can’t take them; we can’t take from them the issues that directly propel their sustenance; we can’t be talking of climate change when the entire nation of Africa depends on what creates a greenhouse. The best we can do is to scientifically, now begin to look at this resource and then redesign it in such a way as to mitigate the fears that are already being expressed by these other groups fighting for climate change. Those are the issues we raised, and it’s so profound that the world needs to hear us,” he concluded.

Comparatively, while Professor Tosan’s ideology/argument made a whole lot of sense to me, I, however, still recall how Mr Ronald Kayanja, Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), spoke on the same topic (climate change) but maintained a different view.

This was at a function on Friday, September 20, 2019, in Lagos to mark the year’s International Day of Peace, which had as a theme Climate Action For Peace. Kayanja’s understanding and postulations about climate change were the direct opposite of Tosan’s argument.

Apart from Kayanjas’ definition of climate change as changes in these weather patterns over several decades or more which make a place become warmer or receive more rain or get drier, what made the lecture crucial was the awareness of the dangers of and warning on the urgent need to address climate changes which he said have become even clearer with the release of a major report in October 2018 by the world-leading scientific body for the assessment of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC), warning that in order to avoid catastrophe, we must not reach 1.5 C and 2oC.

In a similar style, Kayanja in that presentation used an analytical method and properly framed arguments to underline how; the current conflict in North-East Nigeria is not unrelated to the changes in climate in that region over time. As well as provides a link as to how; the climate change challenge also sets the stage for the farmer and herder violence witnessed in parts of West Africa and many countries that face violent conflicts in Africa: Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Mali and the Central Africa Republic.

He argued that local tensions over access to food and water resources could spill over into neighbouring countries as people seek to find additional resources and safety – placing more strain on the resources of those countries, which could amplify tensions. In these instances, climate change does not directly cause conflict over diminishing access to resources, but it multiplies underlying natural resource stresses, increasing the chances of a conflict.

As to what should be done to this appalling situation, the UN boss said that the UN Secretary-General had made climate action a major part of his global advocacy, calling on all member states to double their ambition to save our planet.

For me, as the debate rages, it is important to underline that Kayanja’s position looks alluring in principle. But then, this piece holds the opinion that African leaders and policymakers must not allow the propositions canvassed by Tosan go with political winds.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Economy: Simplistic Thinking in Africa and African American Communities

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African American communities

By Nneka Okumazie

There is caution in African American communities not to criticise each other to avoid appearing to take the side of others against the community. This agreement, useful in a few cases, has become part of the problem of the community where there is an appearance to condone horrible things.

If the problem is to avoid sounding like others, then another channel to criticize but not sound like others should have been sought.

In the community, the killings of the same kind, even for some who have made it, sometimes over absurd things, meets mute responses or fierce firestorm from the leaders of the community.

Do not criticize has allowed all kinds of comments and behaviours to fester in the community, and it keeps getting worse, but everyone minds their business because black people come first even if it is evil.

There is a limit to protests. There is a limit to heightened sensitivity over the past. There is a limit to ignoring internal responsibility. Proclamation of emancipation is a starting point, but every other way, as a people, to ensure more strength has to be sought. Civil rights are great but there is a need for the kind of economic success of Asia to be strong and not act or be seen as a victim because victimhood is limited.

There is a limit to entitlement for the sake of it, in a time when economic concerns are a priority for all. An individual success story is already old for a people with the majority on the lower economic and social side. A charity that benefits a small number of people in a small community is negligible for people. Speaking out for the sake of it, against oppression by other races, is also limited for a successful black. Whatever feel-good story on history or origin may promote fantasy, but ensures backwardness in reality.

As more blacks, everywhere, are getting prominent and failing in some positions, the other races have been able to lob criticisms without getting racial, something that many blacks do not attempt for each other.

There are streams of simplistic thinking that are static ends for a people, and breaking out of it, as a people is important for progress.

In Africa, most people keep saying the government is the problem or corruption. But there are different countries, structures, regions, states, governments, etc. yet there is hardly a major success story comparable with some in Asia.

Asian success is different people in different sectors making progress ahead and above the government so that government gets to adopt those into policy. If everyone with some responsibility or a few in different fields pursues major progress, the government does not have the power to crush all of them. The government would have to adopt or enable some. The excellence that made those would have them draw others. The government too would promote some policies whose success or adoption would meet the advancement the people are seeking, so it would work.

But what is obvious in most African countries is that the government often has the best answer, which is often really low, so from other sectors, things are lower, so most things are worse. And whenever there is a crisis, it is even far worse, because those who could try have failed, so left to the government, everything goes down.

Government is not the problem in any African country so long they have sectors and people who hold responsibility. Simplistic thinking says it is government.

Some have also said that they should use African religions for swearing officials into the office to prevent corruption. If enacted, some people would find a way around it, so it solves nothing.

There are desperate Africans who migrate to other continents, by the sea, desert and other ways, to find survival. Their move is parallel to professionals who run away too, because the place is bad, as a belief, not because they are actually in some dire situation.

There is a comment on brain drain, but brain drain is not a problem for professionals who are replaceable. Many of them would not do better than what government would do, so leaving or staying makes little difference, so no matter the certificates or certifications, it is not a brain drain if their work had not been consistently aiming at progress.

For many, success is seen as location or position when success is time or other things not related to material or resources. The things that are needed for progress, like courage, fairness, sincerity, honour, and selfless diligence for all that is not available, makes many to point to the wrong things.

[Psalm 144:4, Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.]

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